We asked the experts, in this case parents, to share their secrets for keeping family driving trips fun — or at least sane:

Start 'em young: Gwen Sturrock brought her two boys from Marshall to the Twin Cities early and often. "They got used to being in the car and listening to music and looking out the window," she said. Cheryllyne Vaz said she and husband Andy Harwood "potty trained [their kids] by the time they were 15 months old. We just told them they had to hold it till we reached a rest stop."

Empower your kids: Get them involved from the get-go, from choosing books on tape to picking destinations or detours along the way. Last year, before driving from Pittsburgh to Chicago, Jerome Reutzel showed his sons the route and they opted to stop at Canton, Ohio, to go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Diversify: Have games galore — from "1001 Things to Spot" and magnetic Monopoly to Playmobile and playing cards — and load up on books on tape. If your kids have iPods, iPads, electronic readers or gaming devices, those should be included in the activities.

Encourage creativity: Jen Newburg's kids improvise a lot, creating their own travel Bingo cards and concocting games such as "car golf," in which they draw a tee and a circle for the holes, and then close their eyes and try to draw a line from the tee to the hole. On a recent trip, Katie Smith's kids and their cousins filmed some outdoor scenes on their iPads and made movies. "That was fun because they used technology and the scenery," she said.

Allow for play time: Sturrock's family always stops for lunch in a park. "Every town, no matter the size, has a park," she said. "So they eat and then play for about a half-hour and wear off energy, hopefully."

Make sure the car is ship-shape: "iPods and movies make life easier for parents — unless something doesn't work," said Mitch Mohs of Richfield. "Last year the [air conditioner] went out in the middle of North Dakota and it was 100 degrees. No fun. Dog in the car, the month from hell." This year, the Mohses have a new vehicle — with a DVD player.

Bill Ward